Cheating, College faculty, College faculty, Corporate, Cost of Education, Domestic, Education Quality, Ethics, For-Profit, Friend, Fraud, or Fishy, Investors, Minorities, equity, and access, Required, Retention Rates, Students, University & College - Written by on Thursday, December 1, 2011 5:00 - 0 Comments

GAO Undercover Investigation of For-Profits Finds Mixed Results

by DCDan via Flickr under CreativeCommons

WA applauds the latest Government Accountability Report, ordered up by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, which involved students going undercover and investigating 15 for-profit colleges. We applaud it for its mission of keeping the for-profit colleges honest and accountable. And we applaud it for its creativity of sending in dud students to test the for-profit colleges controls and policies.

Some For-Profit colleges may whine this is not fair… that the government should test all colleges. It is well within the purview of the government to do this as enrollment at such colleges “has grown far faster than in traditional higher-education institutions” according to the GAO report. And the For-profit colleges received roughly $32 billion in grants, loans provided to students under federal student aid programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The government or private companies could certainly rank other colleges and universities… but, let’s face it, selective colleges don’t have the same problems that the for-profits have had. Meanwhile, our read on the investigation results is that while some schools failed the tests… it is heartening to see that other schools are implementing policies that protect students and taxpayers!

So here are the key results from the October investigation:

To conduct this testing, GAO selected 15 for-profit colleges using a selection process that included the 5 largest colleges and a random sample and attempted to enroll using fictitious identities. Once enrolled, each fictitious student engaged in behaviors consistent with substandard academic performance. Each fictitious identity enrolled for approximately one term, as defined by the college. The experience of each of GAO’s undercover students is unique and cannot be generalized to other students taking courses offered by the for-profit colleges we tested or to other for-profit or nonprofit colleges. GAO intended to test
colleges that were unaware of its true identity.

 What GAO Found:

During the course of undercover testing, GAO documented its observations related to enrollment, cost, financial aid, course structure, substandard student performance, withdrawal, and exit counseling. Overall, GAO observed that 8 of the 15 colleges appeared to follow existing policies related to academic dishonesty, exit counseling, and course grading standards. At the 7 remaining colleges, GAO found mixed results. For example, one or more staff at these colleges appeared to act in conflict with school policies regarding academic dishonesty or course grading standards, or federal regulations pertaining to exit counseling for student loans, while other staff acted consistent with such policies.

Enrollment: GAO attempted to enroll its students using fictitious evidence of high-school graduation either a home-school diploma or a diploma from a closed high school at all 15 colleges and successfully enrolled in 12. Two declined GAO’s request for enrollment based on insufficient proof of high-school graduation. Another allowed GAO’s student to begin class, but rescinded acceptance after 1 week, citing lack of high-school accreditation.

Cost and Financial Aid: GAO’s students took 31 classes in total at an average cost of $1,287 per class. These costs included such items as tuition, books, and technology fees. All 12 students were eligible for federal student aid, but only 10 actually received disbursements; the other students were expelled without receiving disbursements. We did not observe that a college collected federal student aid funds after the withdrawal date of any of our students (that was not fully refunded immediately).

Substandard Academic Performance: GAO’s students engaged in substandard academic performance by using one or more of the following tactics: failure to attend class, failure to submit assignments, submission of objectively incorrect assignments, submission of
unresponsive assignments, and plagiarism. At 6 colleges, instructors acted in a manner consistent with school policies in this area, and in some cases attempted to contact students to provide help outside of class. One or more instructors at 2 colleges repeatedly noted that the
students were submitting plagiarized work, but no action was taken to remove the student. One or more instructors at the 4 remaining colleges did not adhere to grading standards. For example, one student submitted photos of celebrities and political figures in lieu of essay
question responses but still earned a passing grade.

Withdrawal and Exit Counseling: Three of GAO’s students were expelled for performance or nonattendance. Eight of the 9 students withdrew from their respective colleges without incident. At the remaining school, GAOs request to withdraw was never acknowledged and the student was eventually expelled for nonattendance. 3 students did not receive federally mandated exit counseling, advising students of repayment options and the consequences of default.

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-150]

The Washington Post story on the GAO Report. Daniel de Vise writes:

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D) requested the investigation and hailed its conclusions. “The findings of this report underscore the need for stronger oversight of the for-profit education industry in order to ensure that students and taxpayers are getting a good value for their investment in these schools,” Harkin said in a statement. He chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The report does not appear to identify the colleges but said the institutions studied included the five largest in enrollment. That list includes both the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University; the latter institution is owned by the Washington Post Co.

The University of Phoenix indicated, in a release, that its officials followed protocol. A spokesman said in a statement the institution acted “in accordance with our written policies and in the best interests of both the prospective student and the institution.”

Spokesman Rick Castellano said Phoenix officials effectively stopped undercover students at the door when they presented phony credentials. “Want to make it clear that no undercover GAO ‘students’ were able to enroll at the University and therefore none of the report’s findings are a reflection on University of Phoenix,” he said in an e-mail.

Brian Moran, interim president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, responded to the report in a statement: “We should be dubious of this new report given the one-sided nature of Senator Harkin’s inquiry into the proprietary sector of higher education and serious flaws in the previous GAO report regarding this sector.”

 

Here is a link to the full text of the letter the GAO sent back to Sen. Harkin regarding the report. Below, we reprint the results in table format.

Table 1: Federal Financial Aid and Out-of-Pocket Costs of Undercover Student Attendance at 15 For-Profit Colleges:

School: 1;
Number of classes attempted: 2;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $3,097;
Total cost (dollars): $3,097.

School: 2;
Number of classes attempted: 1;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $1,134;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $1,272;
Total cost (dollars): $2,406.

School: 3;
Number of classes attempted: 2;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $45;
Total cost (dollars): $45.

School: 4;
Number of classes attempted: 3;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $4,770;
Total cost (dollars): $4,770.

School: 5;
Number of classes attempted: 2;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $1,162;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $950;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $1,117;
Total cost (dollars): $3,229.

School: 6;
Number of classes attempted: 2;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $34;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $2,591;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $0;
Total cost (dollars): $2,625.

School: 7;
Number of classes attempted: 3;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $1,185;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $2,030;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $829;
Total cost (dollars): 4,044.

School: 8;
Number of classes attempted: 5;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $1,162;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $1,990;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $650;
Total cost (dollars): $3,802.

School: 9;
Number of classes attempted: 2[A];
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $1,162;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $1,990;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $1,088;
Total cost (dollars): $4,240.

School: 10;
Number of classes attempted: 3;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $1,162;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $1,990;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $2,260;
Total cost (dollars): $5,412.

School: 11;
Number of classes attempted: 4;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $1,162;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $1,990;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $410;
Total cost (dollars): $3,562.

School: 12;
Number of classes attempted: 2;
Subsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): $0;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): $2,676;
Total cost (dollars): $2,676.

School: 13;
Number of classes attempted: n.a.[B];
Subsidized student loans (dollars): n.a.;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): n.a.;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): n.a.;
Total cost (dollars): n.a.

School: 14;
Number of classes attempted: n.a.[B];
Subsidized student loans (dollars): n.a.;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): n.a.;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): n.a.;
Total cost (dollars): n.a.

School: 15;
Number of classes attempted: n.a.[B];
Subsidized student loans (dollars): n.a.;
Unsubsidized student loans (dollars): n.a.;
Out-of-pocket expenses (dollars): n.a.;
Total cost (dollars): n.a.

Source: GAO.

n.a. = not applicable:

[A] Fictitious student attempted the same class twice.

[B] Student was denied enrollment.

[End of table]



Leave a Reply

Comment

Campus Buzz


We welcome Tips & Pitches



What you need to know weekly:
The WiredAcademic newsletter.


* = required field

Latest WA Original Features






  • Twitter feed loading




Paul Glader, Managing Editor
@paulglader

Eleni Glader, Policy Editor

Elbert Chu, Innovation Editor
@elbertchu

Ravi Kumar, Reporter & Social Media Editor
@ravinepal

Derek Reed, Reporter
@derekreed

Brock Buesing, Contributor










APEI24.45  chart+0.50  chart +2.09%
APOL9.99  chart+0.04  chart +0.40%
AAPL120.00  chart+0.22  chart +0.18%
BPI11.49  chart+0.09  chart +0.79%
CAST0.0025  chart+0.0000  chart +0.00%
CECO10.00  chart+0.22  chart +2.25%
COCON/A  chart+0.0000  chartN/A
CPLA85.80  chart+1.35  chart +1.60%
DV33.65  chart+0.85  chart +2.59%
EDMC0.015  chart+0.000  chart +0.00%
ESI0.358  chart+0.000  chart +0.00%
GOOG805.02  chart+2.85  chart +0.36%
LINC1.98  chart+0.04  chart +2.06%
LOPE57.94  chart+0.33  chart +0.57%
PEDH0.09  chart+0.01  chart +12.50%
PSO7.23  chart+0.00  chart +0.00%
SABAN/A  chart+0.00  chartN/A
SCHL45.81  chart+0.03  chart +0.07%
STRA80.57  chart+0.95  chart +1.19%
WPON/A  chart+0  chartN/A
2017-01-20 16:00


Cost of Education, Domestic, Education Quality, Ethics, For-Profit, Regulatory, Required, Students, University & College - Mar 11, 2012 21:17 - 0 Comments

Heard: Senators On Warpath Against For-Profit College Military Push

More In For-Profit


Blended Learning, Domestic, Elementary / Primary / Junior, Flipped Classrooms, High school / Secondary 2, International, Open Source Education, Required, School teachers, Startups, Students, Technology - Mar 12, 2012 19:04 - 0 Comments

Big Weekend For Sal Khan; Appears On 60 Minutes & Launches Free iPad App

More In Technology


Domestic, Education Quality, For-Profit, Friend, Fraud, or Fishy, Required, University & College - Feb 10, 2012 16:36 - 0 Comments

Heard: NYC Warns Against For-Profit Adult Education Scams

More In Friend, Fraud, or Fishy